A Surrogate Partner's Perspective on Attachment
By Andrew Heartman
As a surrogate partner, I'm often asked
about attachment. “What happens if the client falls
in love with you?” As I will discuss, what might appear
on the surface to be a problem actually turns out to be two
Before I get to the gifts, it’s important to know that
I rely on the expertise of the referring therapist for their
professional evaluation of whether this particular client
and her specific goals would be appropriate for surrogate
partner therapy. Clients with attachment disorders, for example,
would probably not be good candidates.
Gift 1: Some clients who are appropriate
for SPT have not been able to have the type of intimate connections
they wish to have in their life. They most likely have fear
or anxiety related to some aspect of relationship building.
For them to feel safe and trusting enough to be comfortable
forming an attachment is, in all likelihood, a positive step.
It’s part of opening the heart to future relationships.
Rather than being something to avoid, it can be an important
part of the therapy, and something that can never be taken
away from them.
Since the relationship formed is temporary, people then ask,
“If there is an attachment, won't it be painful for
the client when the therapy ends?”
Gift 2: We all have relationships that end. In fact, all of
our relationships will end in one way or another. Some people
are so afraid of what will happen when the relationship ends
that they are not willing to take the risk to enter into the
relationship in the first place. In SPT, the client learns
that they can survive the end of a relationship, and that,
even if there is sadness, relationships can be ended with
respect, gratitude, and appreciation for the positive feelings
In this culture, we commonly handle breakups in a way that
causes a lot of pain for both parties. We tend to believe
that if two people break up, they will hate each other afterward.
Often, we either blame our ex and make them wrong in order
to justify the relationship ending, or we take on that there
something wrong with us that makes us unsuitable to be with.
I believe that conscious, amicable breakups, like the kind
we practice in SPT, are healing to both parties and make us
more able to have better relationships in the future. The
world would be a better place if we all experienced the type
of “breakup” we have in SPT.
As a surrogate, my experience of the
end of this therapeutic relationship is like that of parents
watching their daughter go off to college. I feel sad to see
her go, but happy she is moving on to a brighter future, and
proud that I've helped, in some small way, to prepare her
for that future.
Rather than being something to avoid, the attachment formed
in SPT is beneficial, both when the attachment is formed and
also when it is ended.